The Gulf’s boundless ambition to change the world

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Now it wants to export its model. But the region faces grave dangers

image: Ricardo Rey/getty images

If you thought the Middle East was stagnant, think again. The Gulf economies are among the richest and most vibrant on the planet, helped by a Brent crude oil price that rose back to over $90 per barrel this week. A $3.5trn fossil-fuel bonanza is being spent on everything from home-grown artificial intelligence models and shiny new cities in the desert, to filling the coffers of giant sovereign-wealth funds that roam the world’s capital markets looking for deals.

As the cash flows in, the chaos shows signs of receding, thanks to the biggest burst of diplomacy for decades. Saudi Arabia and Iran have negotiated detente in a rivalry that has lasted since the Iranian revolution in 1979. Civil wars in Syria and Yemen are killing fewer people, as their sponsors seek de-escalation. Following the Abraham accords between Israel and some Arab governments, Saudi Arabia is considering recognising the Jewish state, 75 years after its creation. The region’s global clout is rising—four countries are about to join the brics club of non-aligned powers that want a less Western-dominated world.

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